Nice to see some decent ground at the A1 track for a change, taking into account the added yardage times suggested the ground was indeed good to soft.
Two divisions of the novice handicap hurdle run half an hour apart clocked exactly the same time and both looked moderate affairs.
Bertie Lugg and Chasma dominated the market in the opener but I wasn't keen on either - the former a very big chase type wasn't sure to relish the sounder surface and the form wasn't great, while Chasma had also won on soft ground and had another hike to contend with, while she got pretty sweaty beforehand.
One of the brighter pixies in the forest of paddock watchers pointed me in the direction of Temple Tiger, who had shown up well in a good ground bumper a year earlier that contained useful sorts Cloudy Dream and Nuts Well.
Handicapped over the winter on heavy ground, the six-year-old came in for support off an opening rating of 89 and he landed the good each-way support despite looking green having hit the front for the first time its life.
Chasma gave vain chase and is an honest trier but Nicki's Nipper backed out of things suggesting as I suspected that the form of her previous effort was pretty poor.
The second division appeared to be at the mercy of Return Flight but the well-backed jolly proved bitterly disappointing, unable to pick up in the straight and eventually missing out on the places.
It's hard to fathom such a laboured effort from a horse who chased home Shantou Village here in a bumper last season. The better ground was sure to suit and he settled well enough in mid-div. He's bred to stay well so maybe he already needs a trip, and now that he has learned to settle that could be the secret. But as things stand he's only showed very moderate form over timber.
I wasn't interested in the three-runner novice chase until I saw Lessons In Milan in the paddock - the Henderson horse looked like his head has gone. A lovely stamp of a horse, he showed nothing on his chase debut and looks like something is troubling him. It came as little surprise that he didn't perform again, never travelling into the bridle and holding his head to one side.
I nearly backed the outsider of the three, Chase The Wind. Trainer Jo Foster has had a torrid season but there's a flicker of light for the handler and he went with bags of zest, jumping great, only to be collared by the strong staying Ballyculla.
I quite liked Lord Golan in the next even though the handicapper had hiked him up for a decent effort in a novice hurdle last time. An extra half mile would have suited but I quite liked the way the horse went in the race and he can definitely pick up a small event on good ground.
Weapon Of Choice looked in good order and could be poised to strike on proper fast ground even though he barely stays 2m and looks quite high in the weights. Absolute should also win a race in due course, I thought he might improve for the run and he didn't look right in his coat. He's surely better than this.
The race of the day was the handicap chase over 2m5f and it resulted in one of the biggest punts I've seen this year in the ex-G Moore trained Wolf Sword. Everybody wanted to be on now he's joined Sue Smith but I had huge reservations knowing he'd had his wind done, had bled in the past, wasn't certain to stay and had been quite novicey in the past.
That didn't stop THEM from piling in all the way to the off and beyond. The horse certainly went through the race like the winner but W Kennedy hadn't read the memo and he crept into the race under Top Cat Henry, putting down a serious challenge going to the last.
It's hard to say who wold have won had Wolf Sword stood up, but after meeting it wrong he went down along with a good deal of cash. Nothing else landed a blow, with Pay The King exiting early doors. He's becoming expensive to follow but remains on a very tempting mark.
The bumper was one of the best of its type in the north this season without having a standout performer on paper.
Happy Hollow had the form with victory at Southwell and reports suggested he would improve greatly for the experience. As the cliche goes defying a penalty is not easy in bumpers and although a slow early pace was against many, the Swinbank youngster impressed once again as he motored clear.
Runner-up Competition had come in for each-way support and this flat type was fit on debut, while Captain Moirette backed up the Catterick run that earned many a notebook entry without necessarily improving upon it. Personally, he's one to take on before he embarks on a chase career.
Others to note for the future were Monthyne, a strong staying type who lacked the pace for this, Mayo Star, a well-related 4yro who looks like a flat horse but stayed on very late after running green, and Disturb, who is a decent looker and shaped with some promise.
Yewlands looked backward so his effort in fourth was pleasing, but Jack Lamb remains very lean and leggy and may not have the ability of his siblings.